Bock’s Score: Who Are These Yankees?

Brian Rothmuller/Icon Sportswire

Baseball is unpredictable, which is what makes it so fascinating.

The analytics crowd won’t like that piece of information. They believe the game can be reduced to algorithms and formulas, how pitchers will throw sliders with their third pitch and fastballs with their fourth. How hitters will always swing at the first pitch or the third.

What those fancy formulas can’t explain is why a pitcher who throws 97 mph suddenly is throwing 92 mph. Is it deliberate or just wear and tear? Or why a hitter swings at the second pitch instead of the first or third. They are questions that can’t be answered.

Why is a relief pitcher lights out one night and very hittable the next time out?

How come a hitter strikes out four times one night to earn the “Golden Sombrero” and then comes through with a big hit the next night.

Then there is the mystery of how a team can go on a 13-game winning streak like the Yankees did after the Field of Dreams loss and how that same team can make a 180-degree U-turn and lose nine of the next 11 games.

If the Sabermetricians have an answer to that riddle, they might want to give Yankees manager Aaron Boone a call.
Boone has battled his way through a very weird season with the Yankees, peaks and valleys that are difficult to explain. He is grasping for solutions. They are not easy to find.

His closer, Aroldis Chapman, has been inconsistent and the rest of his bullpen has been spotty. Zack Britton is done for the season after undergoing surgery. Jonathan Loaisiga has pitched well out of the pen but is currently on the injured list. His ace, Gerrit Cole, limped off the mound the other night with a hamstring issue.

Anybody have an algorithm to solve this?

When the Yankees re-signed free agent DJ LeMahieu, it meant second baseman Gleyber Torres would move to shortstop. That hasn’t worked either offensively or defensively. For the moment, rookie Andrew Velazquez is the shortstop and Torres is on the bench.

Joey Gallo, a glitzy trade deadline acquisition, broke a 1-for-25 slump with a base hit the other night, pushing his batting average to .198, still below the dreaded Mendoza Line of .200. Anthony Rizzo, who also arrived at the deadline, missed time with COVID and also has struggled.

If this sounds like a mess, it is. How then did they win 13 straight? Perhaps the analytics folks can come up with an answer for that one.

About the Author

Hal Bock

Hal Bock covered sports for 40 years at The Associated Press including 30 World Series, 30 Super Bowls and 11 Olympics. He is the author of 14 books including most recently The Last Chicago Cubs Dynasty and Banned Baseball's Blacklist of All-Stars and Also-Rans. He has written scores of magazine articles and served as Journalist In Residence at Long Island University's Brooklyn campus where he also served on the selection committee for the George Polk Awards.

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